WORCESTER — Stanley Greidinger came to Clark University to learn about nonprofit business after a stint in the Peace Corps.
Wanting to blend his love of community building with his master’s of business administration academic program, Mr. Greidinger, 28, joined the staff of the Community Thrift Store at 930 Main St.
“I got really interested in local, grassroots development, and the ability to both study that at school and apply it in a way that could really help the local community was really attractive,” Mr. Greidinger said.
The Community Thrift Store is just one initiative of Clark’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, which resides in the Graduate School of Management, according to program director Amy Whitney.
The program provides graduate students with a place to hone their business skills. It also allows undergraduates to minor in business administration.
The program is not solely based on academic credits, Ms. Whitney said, which encourages students of any majors to get involved.
“The idea of the entrepreneurial mindset is that we’re teaching you how to be a creative problem-solver, we’re teaching you resilience, we’re teaching you communication skills, collaboration skills,” she said.
The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program was established in 2006, providing an outlet for invention on an already creative campus.
“There has always been an entrepreneurial spirit amongst Clarkies, so having an entrepreneurial minor really allowed for having an academic component to support the work of students,” Ms. Whitney said.
Mr. Greidinger is the Community Thrift Store’s business manager, overseeing day-to-day operations, as well as a graduate student in the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. The store is an entirely student-run venture owned by the university.
The thrift store sells used and donated items at affordable prices. Mr. Greidinger says that pricing is crucial to the success of the shop. Profit margins are not as important to the Community Thrift Store as low prices for students and community members.
“The goal is to sell our stuff at a price that allows us to operate, but is cheap enough that we’re not gaining a lot from it,” Mr. Greidinger said, applying knowledge from his courses of study as well as his time in the Peace Corps. “If we were, to me, that would be a sign that we could reduce our price to help benefit the community more.”
The store’s annual revenue is about $19,000.
The idea for the store arose from the Ureka Big Idea Challenge, which the Innovation and Entrepreneurship program sponsors. The challenge is open to all students, who generate business plans to compete for a $5,000 prize, which is awarded to fund those business plans.
Another on-campus student-run venture is the Clark Copy Center. The university terminated its contract with local AlphaGraphics to transition to the student-run model, which brings in about $10,000 to $11,000 in annual revenue.
Eva Favreau, an undergraduate student not enrolled in the program, wanted to work at the Clark Copy Center to witness a small business grow in real-time.
“It became this great pet project that was different from anything I was doing in my studies,” she said at the center. “It allowed me to develop as a person with a way broader range of skills than just what I focused on in my major.”
The Innovation and Entrepreneurship program is also responsible for the creation of The Local Root, a farm stand and “mobile market” on campus that connects students with local produce, according to Ms. Whitney. Students visit various campus buildings with coolers filled with the week’s inventory.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship students also mentor students at Worcester Technical High School and at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York City. Clark students assist with business plans by providing feedback, such as unit pricing modeling or research of target markets, Ms. Whitney said.
She said the program’s skills are meant to extend to life beyond Clark, where the job market is ever-changing and careers demand adaptability.
“Our mission is to provide learning experiences for students, so that they can build the knowledge,” Ms. Whitney said. “They can either launch their own business or really be innovators in other organizations or in the world globally.”
Mr. Greidinger says that he brings innovative and academic skills into his job at the Community Thrift Store on a daily basis. Though a full-time student, his role of business manager is an opportunity to exercise the business skills he learns in class.
“This isn’t just your regular retail shop — we want this to be a part of your education as well,” he said. His goal, he said, is to help his fellow students find a way to connect what they’re doing here to their education.”